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COVID-19

Mississippi prisons and jails have the potential of quickly becoming COVID-19 hot spots

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(Photo by Rennett Stowe, CC BY 2.0)

Health officials keep a close watch on any COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities such as rehabilitation hospitals and nursing homes. The facilities have high rates of contagion and death due to many factors including the age and poor health of its patients.

Another reason the virus spreads so rapidly in these facilities is that they contain relatively large numbers of people living in close quarters.

With that last specification in mind, officials are also keeping an eye on inmate populations and staff in prisons and jails. With the world’s highest number of prisoners at more than 2 million, and the highest per capita rate of incarceration, every U.S. prison is a potential COVID-19 hot spot.

Mississippi holds about 14% of the nation’s inmates in its prisons and jails, with about 18,500 in state and private prisons, 3,900 in federal prisons, and the balance in its county and municipal jails. All of the facilities in the state have been closed to visitors, other than lawyers and “essential” visitors, since mid-March.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped the virus.

On April 6, the Mississippi Department of Corrections announced that three of its prison system employees tested positive for COVID-19.

A prisoner at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman died of the virus on April 12. Interim MDOC Commissioner Tommy Taylor told the Clarion Ledger that the unnamed inmate had been sick for weeks and died the Delta Regional Medical Center in Greenville. The results of his COVID-19 test did not come back until after he had died.

On Thursday, MDOC announced three inmates had tested positive of about 20 tested to date. On Friday, another four inmates tested positive.

Prisoner advocacy groups are asking that high-risk inmates, including those over the age of 65 or with suppressed immune systems, be released—at least temporarily—from the tight confines of Mississippi prisons. They are also asking for more transparency from MDOC about the growing crisis in the state’s prisons. In a press conference Friday, Gov. Tate Reeves said he was in contact with MDOC about the situation.

In one letter, addressed to Reeves and Taylor on March 30, advocates wrote that “many of the precautions that those outside of prison have been encouraged to take cannot be heeded inside prison. There is no way to practice social distancing; the hygiene is poor; and the medical care is inadequate. Once the virus spreads inside the prisons, elderly and sick people will be sitting ducks.”

“We are reviewing our policies and the procedures and the law,” MDOC’s Taylor told the Clarion Ledger via a spokesperson Friday. “The law does not allow us to release people because they are at a higher risk. But the law does allow us to do conditional medical releases.

“We understand they are vulnerable. We are doing everything we can to keep them safe, to keep our staff safe and to keep our medical staff safe.”

During the first week of April, the Federal Correction Institution in Yazoo County reported an outbreak of 25 cases among inmates and staff. Since then, that number has grown to 70 cases, 66 among inmates and four among staff.

The federal Bureau of Prisons says on its website that all incoming inmates are being screened for COVID-19, and symptomatic inmates “with exposure risk factors are isolated and tested for COVID-19 per local health authority protocols.” A 14-day inmate lockdown was put in place on March 31 and has since been extended until May 18.

On April 15, BOP Director Michael Carvajal said in a video that nationwide, about a third of federal facilities have been affected by COVID-19. As of Saturday, April 18, the system reported 479 inmate cases, 305 staff cases, and 21 inmate deaths. No deaths have been reported in the Yazoo facilities.

U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr, who oversees the Bureau of Prisons, ordered a review  on April 3 to determine who among the country’s nearly 144,000 federal inmates could safely be furloughed to home confinement.

Nearly 1,200 federal prisoners have been furloughed to date.

COVID-19

Mississippi Rental Assistance grant applications being accepted

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(Photo by Photo Mix from Pixabay)

Applications for the Mississippi Rental Assistance Grant Program are being accepted by the Mississippi Development Authority as of Thursday.

The program is designed for landlords with tenants who have fallen behind on rent due to COVID-19. The program will cover rent going back to March for tenants who have been unable to pay because they lost their job or have reduced income due to COVID-19.

Landlords are eligible for up to $30,000 and must credit grant funds to their tenants’ past due rents. Renters cannot apply directly for this program and should contact their landlords about applying on their behalf. Both small and large landlords can apply for the program.

Landlords should visit www.mississippi.org/mrap to learn more about the program and apply. The application deadline is Nov. 15.

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COVID-19 hospitalizations on the rise with increased cases

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Mississippi is seeing a steady rise in hospitalizations for confirmed and suspected cases of COVID-19. The rise is consistent with the rise in new cases. The Magnolia State is among numerous other U.S. states that are seeing a rise in cases. Daily new cases in the U.S. are now averaging more than 60,000, a 32% increase in the past two weeks. Major new outbreaks have been reported in the rural Midwest and Rocky Mountain states.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported four new COVID-19 cases Thursday in Warren County and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,536, and the county’s death toll is 55.

Statewide, MSDH reported 958 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 113,081. The seven-day average of new cases is 706, higher by 206 cases from a month ago.

Most new cases are seen in younger people recently, and they are more likely to survive the virus than those 65 and older. By far, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi are young people from 18 to 29 years old.

MSDH reported Thursday that eight additional Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,231. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 2.9%.

Deaths are a lagging indicator. While July saw the highest number of new cases since the crisis began, August saw the highest number of deaths. The highest number of deaths in any one day was 67 reported Aug. 25.

The eights deaths MSDH reported Thursday occurred between Oct. 18 and Oct. 21 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Thursday
Benton 1
Chickasaw 1
Covington 1
Desoto 1
Jackson 1
Lafayette 1
Lincoln 1
Marshall 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21. MSDH usually reports statistics on the COVID-19 coronavirus each day based on the previous day’s testing and death reports.

The primary metric concerning state health officials are the numbers of people hospitalized, and that number rose steadily with the rise of new cases in July and August. On June 6, the number of Mississippians hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 was at 358. Hospitalizations nearly tripled by late July. They leveled off in early August and began noticeably dropping in the middle of the month including critical cases and numbers of people requiring ventilators. Hospitalizations continued to drop in September but levelled off at the middle of the month. They dropped again through Oct. 3; however, hospitalizations have been rising since then.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20, is 711, more than half of the late July peak of about 1,200. The number includes 605 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 106 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 151 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 73 were on ventilators.

Source: MSDH

MSDH has estimated the number of people who can be presumed recovered from COVID-19 in Mississippi. That number is 97,675 through Sunday, Oct. 11. This figure is updated weekly. It represents about 86.4% of the cumulative 113,081 cases reported Thursday, Oct. 22.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Thursday, Oct. 1, was 1,423, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,368, or about 89% of the 1,536 cumulative cases reported as of Thursday, Oct. 22. The county has an estimated 113 active cases.

These estimates are based on MSDH’s guidelines for calculating estimated recoveries when hospitalizations are not known, using the number of cases 21 days ago, less known outcomes (deaths).

The total number of Mississippians tested for COVID-19 (PCR and antigen tests identifying current infections) as of Thursday, Oct. 10, is 900,479 or about 30.3% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. Mississippi’s positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average) was 17.6% Wednesday according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 5.6%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities was 126 Tuesday. About 40.2%, or 1,298, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities.

A total of 26 deaths in Warren County were residents of LTC facilities.

MSDH is no longer reporting outbreaks in individual long-term care facilities in Mississippi and has replaced it with access to a database from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. You can access and search the data here. The latest data available is for the week ending Oct. 11.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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COVID-19

801 new COVID-19 cases reported Wednesday in Mississippi; seven-day average a third higher than last month

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New COVID-19 cases remain high in Mississippi, with the seven-day average one-third higher than it was at this time in September.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported five new COVID-19 cases Wednesday in Warren County and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,532, and the county’s death toll is 55.

Statewide, MSDH reported 801 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 112,123. The seven-day average of new cases is 758, higher by 253 cases, about one-third, from a month ago.

Most new cases are seen in younger people recently, and they are more likely to survive the virus than those 65 and older. By far, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi are young people from 18 to 29 years old.

MSDH reported Wednesday that 21 additional Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,223. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 2.9%.

Deaths are a lagging indicator. While July saw the highest number of new cases since the crisis began, August saw the highest number of deaths. The highest number of deaths in any one day was 67 reported Aug. 25.

Of the 21 deaths MSDH reported Wednesday, 12 occurred between Aug. 11 and Oct. 19 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Wednesday
Forrest 1
Hinds 3
Jackson 2
Jones 1
Lauderdale 1
Lincoln 1
Panola 1
Pearl River 1
Washington 1

Nine COVID-19 related deaths occurred between Aug. 19 and Oct. 14, identified from death certificate reports.

County Deaths identified from death certificate reports
Clarke 1
George 1
Issaquena 1
Jones 1
Lauderdale 2
Perry 1
Washington 1
Itawamba 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20. MSDH usually reports statistics on the COVID-19 coronavirus each day based on the previous day’s testing and death reports.

The primary metric concerning state health officials are the numbers of people hospitalized, and that number rose steadily with the rise of new cases in July and August. On June 6, the number of Mississippians hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 was at 358. Hospitalizations nearly tripled by late July. They leveled off in early August and began noticeably dropping in the middle of the month including critical cases and numbers of people requiring ventilators. Hospitalizations continued to drop in September but levelled off at the middle of the month. They dropped again through Oct. 3; however, hospitalizations have been showing a rise since then.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18, is 653, more than half of the late July peak of about 1,200. The number includes 541 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 112 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 151 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 70 were on ventilators.

Source: MSDH

MSDH has estimated the number of people who can be presumed recovered from COVID-19 in Mississippi. That number is 97,675 through Sunday, Oct. 11. This figure is updated weekly. It represents about 87.1% of the cumulative 112,123 cases reported Wednesday, Oct. 21.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Wednesday, Sept. 30, was 1,418, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,363, or about 89% of the 1,532 cumulative cases reported as of Wednesday, Oct. 21. The county has an estimated 114 active cases.

These estimates are based on MSDH’s guidelines for calculating estimated recoveries when hospitalizations are not known, using the number of cases 21 days ago, less known outcomes (deaths).

The total number of Mississippians tested for COVID-19 (PCR and antigen tests identifying current infections) as of Thursday, Oct. 15, is 900,479 or about 30.3% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. Mississippi’s positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average) was 17.8% Tuesday according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 5.5%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities was 127 Tuesday. About 40.1%, or 1,293, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities.

A total of 26 deaths in Warren County were residents of LTC facilities.

MSDH is no longer reporting outbreaks in individual long-term care facilities in Mississippi and has replaced it with access to a database from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. You can access and search the data here. The latest data available is for the week ending Oct. 4.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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